I Am the Highway- Wise Project 2018 #TenaciousTuesday

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Highway through Banff National Park

I was about 20 years old and living in London, Ontario and I hung out with a group of Western University Students that for a moment in time were a cross between an episode of Friends and a season of Seinfeld.  The leader of our pack was a hot artist named Adam from Vancouver that dated my friend Krista for a New York minute. My entire life up until that point could have had its own soundtrack and I loved the evenings that we spent at the local brew pub; The Ceeps; singing along with faithful Rick and his guitar and his tireless repertoire of classic songs that were our parent’s favorites. This morning I was driving Morgan to school and Neil Diamonds Sweet Caroline was playing on the radio, Morgan turned to me and said “every single time I hear this song, no matter where I am I swear I can hear you singing.”

Immediately I was transported back in time and I was a very young woman with her friends at the pub onstage with Rick the regular local talent singing alcohol induced back up and never missing a “bump bah bah” in the breath between lines in the chorus to Sweet Caroline. To this day, I never miss a beat and it quite touched me that a memory of mine has sparked a life long memory for her.

Saturday Haley and I were driving home and I was singing and truck dancing along to the radio when Haley shouts “Turn it up that’s my jam!” To see my thirteen year old belting out “If you like piña coladas and getting caught in the rain,” has to be right up there with my proudest Mommy moments, right up there with one of my children saying to me “You can do it put your back into it or ‘Cause your friends don’t dance and if they don’t dance well they’re are no friends of mine’ “

These are important parenting moments, this is how you know that you are getting through, this how you know that no that matter what, that they are watching you and listening to you and what you say and do really does matter.

So let’s get back to my hot friend Adam. I was twenty and still going to Classic Rock concerts and dance concerts like C & C Music Factory and Ace of Base. Bands like Soundgarden and Nirvana were a whole new sound for me. Adam was very influential to everyone in our group and he introduced us to this unconventional passage between the 1980s hard rock-heavy metal and post punk alternative rock. Like him, I became a huge fan of not just Soundgarden but of singer and songwriter, the late, great Chris Cornell.  I equally loved Chris with Audioslave and the song “I am the highway,” has not just had an impact on me it would also be a part of the Soundtrack of my life for so many reasons that would take me years to explain.

The world lost Chris Cornell to Suicide on May 18th, 2017, one month before we lost my late husband Kirk in the same tragic way. I was devastated and didn’t understand. Not only had the world lost an amazing artist, a loving father and husband, so much of my memories of the last twenty or so years would always be tied to a Chris Cornell Lyric. I recall very clearly the night Kirk and I sat in the garage paying tribute to Cornell and really absorbing some of his song lyrics for the first time. Kirk kept saying to me “He was tired, so tired” and clearly he understood on a level that I never truly will. He pointed out the lyrics to Like a Stone which we had sung along to hundreds of times without really considering what we were hearing…

On a cobweb afternoon
In a room full of emptiness
By a freeway I confess
I was lost in the pages
Of a book full of death
Reading how we’ll die alone
And if we’re good, we’ll lay to rest
Anywhere we want to go

Chris poured his heart and his soul and his pain into his lyrics for years. So many of us were comforted  by his words without ever really knowing why.

As much as I have said over the years “You’ve been thunderstruck!” or “I like big butts I cannot lie” I have said “I am not your rolling wheels, I Am the Highway!”

To be perfectly honest I  didn’t know why that lyric resonated so much with me and though I loved it, if you asked me to explain why I would never have been able to come up with an authentic answer that I felt good about.

I knew the lyric meant something to me and I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what Chris had meant when he wrote that amazing line.

Today, in a conversation with Morgan where I told her that she was responsible for only herself and her decisions and that she gets to decide who she is that song lyric popped in my head. Ironically Tom Cochrane’s Life is a Highway was playing at the time and it hit me with such clarity.

I will never know what was in Chris Cornell’s head or heart when he wrote that lyric but I finally know why that song lyric means so much to me.

“I am not your rolling wheels, I am the highway…”

I will never be who you decide I am.

I define who I am.

So simple.

You are in charge of your thoughts, your emotions and your actions. You decide who you are.

“I am not your carpet ride, I am the sky”

In the grand scheme of things this may seem very unimportant but for a woman like me who lives her entire life in song lyrics and movie quotes, and is trying her best to raise young women that are fearless and committed to bringing good to the world, it really means a lot. We are living in precarious times and never has it been more important to be who you truly are without letting anyone else define you.

There are many times throughout my young life that I have allowed myself to be defined by others but when we lost Kirk it was astonishing to me that anyone would have the audacity to try characterize who I was, who my children were and what our relationship was as a couple and as a family to fit their own agenda. I admit that there were days that I just felt lost and I didn’t want to get out of bed. The thing about life is that to live it well, it requires you to show up, even when it is really fucking hard. Nobody is immune to struggle.

There were days I had to remind myself several times a day that I was still me, that I lost Kirk but I didn’t lose me.

I am still the highway.

All day, every damn day.

 

I Am the Highway

Audioslave

Pearls and swine bereft of me
Long and weary my road has been
I was lost in the cities
Alone in the hills
No sorrow or pity for leaving I feel

I am not your rolling wheels
I am the highway
I am not your carpet ride
I am the sky

Friends and liars don’t wait for me
I’ll get on all by myself
I put millions of miles
Under my heels
And still too close to you
I feel

I am not your rolling wheels
I am the highway
I am not your carpet ride
I am the sky

I am not your blowing wind
I am the lightning
I am not your autumn moon
I am the night
The night

I am not your rolling wheels
I am the highway
I am not your carpet ride
I am the sky

I am not your blowing wind
I am the lightning
I am not your autumn moon
I am the night
The night

Songwriters: Brad Wilk / Chris Cornell / Timothy Commerford / Tom Morello